Music

Annapolis Young Artist Program (AYAP) Interview with Natalie Spehar (NS) - interviewed by Emily Kohlenstein (EK)

EK - Let’s start by talking about your background...Where you grew up and how you got started playing music.

NS - I grew up in Northeast Ohio and spent much time in Cleveland studying music and watching The Cleveland Orchestra. I had a pretty eclectic musical upbringing … In addition to other full-time work, my dad is an accordion player and my mom is a singer. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in my uncle’s recording studio as well, listening to rock and metal bands I probably wouldn't have heard of otherwise, especially at a young age. At age four I started classical piano lessons and aural skills class. When I was ten, the high school orchestra came to play for my elementary school class and I immediately fell in love with the cello. I went home that day and told my mom that’s what I wanted to play. She rented me a cello that week, and things pretty much took off from there.

I think because I already had a lot of musical experience when I picked up the cello and could read music, I learned quickly and was able to start recording a couple years into my studies. My uncle would rope me into projects in his studio and also threw me into a contemporary folk band, where I learned how to improvise. I continued to pursue formal classical training as well.

EK - Do you write your own music now, after all of that?

NS - I have composed a few songs and arranged many projects. Usually, though, I find myself improvising in a studio setting or interpreting other composers’ repertoire.

 

EK - Was there ever a time where you thought 'I don't know if music is exactly what I want to pursue as a lasting career?'

NS - Yes --  I have always loved medicine and still like to read medical journals and articles. I know a lot of other musicians have those shared interests... there are actually a few amateur adult orchestras made up of doctors! Many of the kids I grew up with did take a medical career route. I knew I couldn’t live without music being my focus, though, and decided after my sophomore year of high school to pursue it full time.

EK - That brings us to AYAP... how did that come into the mix of being a musician? Did you always know you wanted to work with kids?

NS - I think what draws me so much to live instrumental performance is the intense amount of communication required, and that it most often must happen without using words. With words out of the way, you must physically move more and create with great intent and openness in order to achieve an experience that draws other people in. You also must be open to what your other collaborators are sending your way, and be able to sit back, listen and respond meaningfully with your instrument.  It is always a challenge - and a reward - to connect with other people on that level and it is an excellent exercise in being an effective communicator and leader.

Those experiences shape the way that I listen to and connect with people in general, including kids. In highschool, I formed a volunteer quartet that would play at libraries and present free children’s shows. Since then, I have regularly pursued that kind of teaching and outreach work with young audiences and it over time inspired the idea for AYAP. When I moved to Annapolis and it came time for me to build a private cello studio here, I wanted to create something that was a well-rounded experience -- that introduced my current students not only to great musical repertoire but also to what I think is the overall most important part of being a musician: the joy of connecting with other people.

EK - One of the obvious objectives of AYAP students is performance skill but the other is civic leadership. One does not always see that in a young audience outreach environment. Why did you decide to include that in your curriculum?

NS - I participated in an Arts Leadership Program during my undergrad studies at Eastman School of Music and was exposed to every aspect of what was going to be vital in a professional performance career. I was so thankful for that training because I learned basics of grant writing and took accounting classes on my own, which are both skills I use weekly in running my own program. At ESM, we were also mentored as performance majors by the Ying quartet, who worked with us to develop outreach programs for local elementary schools and assisted living centers. They pushed us to be active collaborators out in the community and that shaped my professional life so much and influenced the way I interact with other people in general. I figured, why not start this training with even younger musicians! It is invaluable information that makes the experience of sharing music that much more rewarding.

As a result of that training, I also discovered that my passion for music could be a force that I use to address other social and community needs -- outside of the music world. For example, my outreach work with music at Maryland Hall has now developed into weekly, free music programming that serves at-risk youth in the area as well as public school students being mentored by our local juvenile justice system. In these situations, music is far more than a fun group activity -- it is teaching collaborative abilities, career skills and leadership concepts that will benefit students in any eventual professional setting. Several of the AYAP students have volunteered to coach these beginning music classes at Maryland Hall and have also taken initiative to create similar, small-group outreach initiatives in the community.

 

EK - Can you explain the new relationship between AYAP and Maryland Hall?

NS - To now have access to such inspiring facilities [at Maryland Hall] and an entirely new audience of people in Annapolis is wonderful and has greatly expanded the opportunities for our AYAP students. Over the years, we have been able to host phenomenal performers from across the country including local musicians from the National Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, and Annapolis Symphony. With Maryland Hall being an important intersection of community arts organizations, our circle continues to expand and we are grateful for that! Maryland Hall is the ideal educational environment for AYAP’s activities and we feel privileged to now be officially operating as a part of Maryland Hall’s outreach program.

EK - Do you choose what events the kids should volunteer for?

NS - What draws a lot of students to the program is our initiative called AYAP Reach, which is a student-led effort to serve the community through volunteer musical work. AYAP faculty serve as mentors for the initiative, but the participating students are the ones tackling the creative as well as administrative responsibilities for most local performances that they present.

I’ve found that when students come in the door and are expected to collaborate at a professional level, something exciting happens -- the kids take pride in their roles and tend to go above and beyond what we expected, creating extra-innovative aspects of their art and new opportunities for their peers. I can facilitate those opportunities and mentor along the way, but do not assign students to specific activities. I simply include those that find the project meaningful and are motivated to help.

EK - Is the program currently open to members of Maryland Hall?

NS - It is open to all young musicians in our community, ages 12-18. AYAP hosts events year-round at Maryland Hall, providing a workshop and masterclass series during the academic year and a Summer String Institute in August, both of which can be registered for at www.marylandhall.org.

AYAP Reach functions year-round in a club format and new members are always welcome! The group meets on the first Saturday of each month for a formal student meeting and then performs and volunteers at local community events throughout the month. For more information about AYAP Reach, please feel free to inquire via email at info@annapolisyap.com.

EK - Can you talk about the Urban Initiative?

NS - A couple of years ago, AYAP started a collaboration with a Capitol Heights, Maryland branch of a national non-profit organization called Urban Initiatives. I was deeply impressed by their effective programming for local citizens in need, which included nutrition information class, summer camp, and a GED class for parents. AYAP teamed up with them to create a music addition to that programming, offering free string mini-camps with local children [in Capital Heights]. During a mini-camp, the kids come for 2 hours every day after school. Some have never played an instrument before so it is very fun and interesting for them. After two weeks, we perform a community concert in which they present individual solos learned as well as a group orchestra piece. It is such an awesome experience for all involved and we look forward to collaborating again soon!

EK - Is there a way people can donate to the program?

NS - Absolutely. We are thrilled to accept instrument donations or funding toward the maintenance of the instruments that we do own  -- we currently have several violins, guitars and a piano and use them daily.  Financial support of our Outreach Program at Maryland Hall in general is of course always appreciated and used to create important opportunities for youth in our community.  Thank you for your continued support!

For further information on funding opportunities and the meaningful influence that has on our outreach programming, please feel free to contact nspehar@mdhallarts.org.

 

 

 

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Music Together Chesapeake teachers

Christine Brimhall graduated from the Hartt School of Music (University of Hartford) with a Bachelors degree in both flute performance and music education. She continued her flute studies at Yale University, receiving her Master of Music in Flute Performance. Christine taught instrumental music in Prince George's County, Maryland for six years. As a music educator, she values the importance of early childhood music education and embraces family music making. Christine has participated in Music Together programs with her two daughters and started teaching Music Together in Fall 2011.  In July 2013 she completed a three-day refresher training, and earned her Music Together Certification I in July of 2014. 

Mandy Stinchcomb has a Bachelor's degree in Theatre from Goucher College in Baltimore. She began singing in choral groups over 17 years ago, and has had a love of music ever since. Mandy  has been participating in Music Together with her children since 2004, and has greatly enjoyed sharing music with her three children through the program. She completed her teacher training in the summer of 2008, and has been teaching family classes since the fall of that year.  Mandy has also taught Music Together In-school in Pasadena, MD. 

Art class Instructors

Holly Rosario was born in rural upstate New York, and spent her childhood exploring its forested terrain. Introverted and aesthetically curious by nature, Holly was interested in art from a young age. In 2007 she moved to Baltimore to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art where she pursued her Bachelors of Fine Arts in conjunction with a Master of Arts in Teaching. While at MICA, she developed an interest in watercolor, inks, paper cuts, and ceramics as well as a passion for art history.  As an artist, Rosario’s papercut works and watercolors are inspired by a love of nature on its most minuscule levels, and explore the role of pattern and repetition in the processes of growth and decay.  Rosario spent three years as an Elementary Art Teacher with Baltimore County Public Schools and is excited to continue her teaching at Maryland Hall.  She sees her pursuits as artist and educator as inseparably intertwined, and hopes to facilitate transformative learning by sharing her passion for the visual world.  She will be teaching visual arts classes for children.  

 

 

Video Above: Participants of AYAP's Summer String Institue 2016 perform an excerpt of
 Martinu's Serenade No. 2 for fellow students in a masterclass setting.

 

Young artists

As frequent visitors to Annapolis, we have been privileged to attend several of the area's numerous cultural events.

On a recent night at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, the concert of the Annapolis Young Artists Program was one of the finest and most inspirational.

It was truly amazing to hear and to watch the professionalism of these young performers as they presented their summer string concert of various chamber and orchestral pieces under the excellent direction of Zack Stachowski, the conductor.

The newest addition to the program, the delightful junior artists ages 8 to 12, also performed some Beethoven and Handel.

If you get the opportunity to hear these students sometime, please do and bring your children and grandchildren who just might be inspired as well. What a great opportunity to learn leadership skills, team building and communication while expressing talent through the beauty of music.

The program was started in the basement of a church in Cape St. Claire. Founder Natalie Spehar deserves kudos for her vision for young musicians.

Bravo to all who made this event happen -- the staff, the students and Maryland Hall, for opening its doors for this event.

JIM and PAT YOST

Northampton, Pennsylvania

Original Story published in Capital Gazette Letters 

Check out our Vimeo page for more Maryland Hall videos!

Founded in 2014 by cellist Natalie Spehar, the Annapolis Young Artists Program (AYAP) serves as a unique opportunity for community musicians to develop high-level performance technique as well as entrepreneurial and leadership skills. Led by faculty members and guest artists that have excelled as performers as well as entrepreneurs in a variety of disciplines, AYAP members work with fantastic mentors that have used innovation to stand out in a highly competitive professional environment. AYAP fosters creativity, diligence, effective communication and community, inspiring a valuable and versatile skill set in all its participants.

AYAP is thrilled to open its workshops and performance opportunities to members of Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts this season. 

AYAP Guest Artist Workshops

Ages: 
9+
Member: 
90.00
Non-Member: 
115.00
 
 
 
Saturday, August 29 | 10 - 11:30 am - “Listening to Classical Music for Study and Enjoyment” Workshop with AYAP Faculty member Zack Stachowski
In this AYAP group session, faculty member Zack Stachowski will demonstrate an effective approach to listening to classical music. He will address specific aspects of recordings that add to listening enjoyment and explore how this can influence and inform one’s own approach to performance.
 
Saturday, September 12 | 10 - 11:30 am - Member Performance Class with AYAP Faculty
AYAP members perform for one another and share constructive feedback in a studio class format. The class is moderated by AYAP Faculty members, including musicians from Annapolis and Baltimore Symphony Orchestras.​
 
Saturday, September 26 | 10 - 11:30 am - “Exploring the Visual Elements of Classical Performance” Workshop with NYC Producer, Justin Nardecchia and AYAP Director, Natalie Spehar
NYC movie producer Justin Nardecchia joins AYAP Director Natalie Spehar to talk about stage presence and concert production. Together, they will explore the visual elements of a music performance and share tips on how to create an engaging environment for presenting art and music.
 
Saturday, October 24 | 10 - 11:30 am - Workshop with Invoke Bowed and Fretted String Quartet
Invoke joins AYAP members to discuss composition, improvisation in a chamber setting, and helpful tips for collaborating with fellow chamber musicians.​
 

Saturday, November 14 | 10 - 11:30 am - Member Performance Class with AYAP Faculty
AYAP members perform for one another and share constructive feedback in a studio class format. The class is moderated by AYAP Faculty members, including musicians from Annapolis and Baltimore Symphony Orchestras.
 
Saturday, November 21 | 10 - 11:30 am - “Trends and Techniques in Contemporary Classical Music” Panel Discussion with NYC Artists Paperwing
New music architects” - Paperwing - spend a morning with AYAP students discussing classical new music trends and demonstrating interesting extended techniques in classical music. In addition, the group will share some tips for collaborating with composers and strategies for gaining support for one’s own new music project.
 

AYAP Fall Concert Series

Invoke Bowed and Fretted String Quartet
Friday, October 23 | 7 pm

Invoke Quartet highlights the “new sound of the American quartet”, performing original compositions off of their album “Souls in the Mud.” 

 

Paperwing in Concert   
Saturday, November 21 | 7 pm

“New music architects” - Paperwing - present an evening of accessible contemporary classical music. 

 

AYAP Member Recital  
Saturday, December 5 | 3 pm   
Tickets: $6

Members of AYAP & AYAP Reach (an Annapolis-based music volunteer organization) perform their current repertoire for the Annapolis community.

 

 

Maryland Hall instructor Maggie Sansone just released her 15th album titled "Hammered Dulcimer Collection," which includes over an hour of selections from nine of her albums. You can purchase it here or preview songs here.

"Celtic, early music and mufti-cultural improvisations that takes the hammered dulcimer to a new level with Sansone's trademark energy and grove based compositions."

Maggie Sansone's Upcoming Classes at Maryland Hall

Hammered Dulcimer Workshop

This workshop is intended to expand the student's technique and repertoire. Class includes: chord theory and its application in creating simple arrangements, introduction to ornamentation, skill building exercises to improve speed and agility, rhythm exercises, group playing and back-up techniques. Music is drawn from Celtic, classical and folk music traditions. Prerequisites: advanced beginner to intermediate playing level, ability to play basic chords, scales and some tunes in keys of D and G. Tuition includes materials fee for class handouts. Maggie’s Big Book of Celtic Tunes will be available for purchase at first class. Contact instructor with questions at mail@maggiesmusic.com or call 410-867-0642 M-T-Th 10-3pm.

Class ID# F14170100
11/4 - 12/9 | Tue (6:10 - 7:00 PM)
Member: $95 | Non-Member: $120

 

Celtic, Bluegrass and Holiday Jam (mixed Instruments)

Join the jam with a focus on holiday tunes, carols and hymns from Celtic, classical and American folk music as well as traditional favorties. Share the joy of music making together in a fun jam session format. We’ll learn new tunes each week, ensemble playing, song accompanying skills, and back up chords and rhythms. Prerequisites: advanced beginner to intermediate level, tune your instrument, and have some experience playing in the keys of G and D. It is helpful to be able to read or follow simple sheet music or chord charts. An audio recording device is recommended. This class is suitable for the following instruments: hammered dulcimer, lap dulcimer, flute, soprano recorder, “D”pennywhistle , mandolin, fiddle, accordion, banjo, ukulele, guitar, bass, bodhrán. Tuition includes materials fee for class handouts. For information or questions regarding instrument recomendations, questions about your playing or skill level and experience, contact instructor at mail@maggiesmusic.com or call 410-867-0642 M-T-Th 10-3pm.​

Class ID# F14170100
11/4 - 12/9 | Tue (7:00 - 7:50 PM)
Member: $75 | Non-Member: $100

Fun Facts about Maggie Sansone:
  • Maggie started teaching at Maryland Hall beginning in 1988, but consistently for the last 14 years.
  • She won the prestigious Annie Award for Performing Arts in Maryland.
  • Her music has been used by the Ballet Theatre of Maryland for a number of their performances, including Excalibur and their Christmas shows.
  • Maggie has performed at Maryland Hall’s annual event, Artfest, with her students for the last 6 years.
 

Read more about Maggie Sansone's story in The Capital here

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